As numerous unresolved issues fly around and choke cable news with talk, among other things, of North Korea, tariffs, the Supreme Court, the Mueller investigation, health care, White House arrivals and departures, and Trump’s raucous rallies, what is real? None of the above.

Only one fact (and not a factoid) coming this year will be real, dependable and in some sense, dispositive: the November 6 congressional election and its outcome. If either the House or Senate changes majorities from Republican to Democrat, an arithmetic conclusion unassailable by the losers, the country changes. So too the other way around.

Aren’t there plenty of facts on the reverberating issues so important to our fevered partisans? No. Let’s examine some of them.

North Korea.  Trump directed numerous encomia at former lethal North Korean “leader” Kim Jong-un after the Singapore talks. In Trump’s eyes Kim morphed from evil incarnate to a responsible international figure who would agree to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula (including all those adjectives, full, permanent, verifiable, whatever). Those tributes appear to be, well, premature.

After Kim’s regime called Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo’s negotiation “gangster-like” this weekend, adding that his  points were “cancerous,” it now appears that Kim thinks “denuclearization” includes the United States, not just North Korea. Where did he get that idea?

Rapprochement with North Korea is not fast approaching.  The relationship will be good or bad. No facts on what will or won’t happen.

Tariffs. With a trade war in the offing, Messrs. Lighthizer and Ross (perpetually tired, he), Trump’s trade warriors, announce daily that it’s not a “war,” just an adjustment redressing decades of inequity and iniquity. Tell that to the soybean farmer.

And the nation’s economy is so great, say Messrs Lighthizer and Ross, we win because we are strong enough to absorb the blows even if it’s a war. How will it turn out? No facts.

Supreme Court appointment. On Monday Trump will announce his selection of a new Justice. There will be both ear-splitting praise and condemnation of his choice. Very loud.

The assumption is that the new Justice will be a reliable conservative who will vote with the other conservatives. Democrats and Republicans are certain of that.  Who says?

Lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court confer extraordinary independence. Justices appointed by Republicans have strayed from the anticipated path more than those selected by Democrats.  Remember Souter, Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor?

2018 is supposed to be different: the new Justice will not be like them. He or she will be a right-wing conservative for the next forty years, it is said by Democrats and Republicans, and he or she will wink it and nod it.  No facts.

Mueller. Silent Robert is getting to be like Old Man River: he just keeps rolling along. The velocity of comments (many purporting to know his “thinking”), come from only one direction; he does not respond. Trump’s publicity machine, often called “lawyers,” even though they are not doing any lawyering, avers that Mueller is past his fresh date.

Without any response from the Special Counsel, Former Mayor Giuliani says that Mueller can’t interview Trump unless he proves to Giuliani that Trump has committed a crime. Good luck with that.

That investigation really has no revealed facts about Trump criminality (it may).

Health Care: The unremitting Republican drumbeat to deny health care to the poor and defenseless is without palpable legislative result. Nothing passed.

No facts.

White House Staff. A lot of staff have left, will leave, want to leave and can’t wait to leave.  Who ever went to Washington and came back with a better reputation than when they went there?

No conclusion can be drawn from these changes and proposed changes (except Scott Pruitt.)  They may be personal, they may be political, they may be both.

No facts.


There may be ups and downs in these and other noisy matters between now and the election. Trump’s embrace of Putin and Kim (so far) and rejection of Europe, Canada and Mexico will continue to cause loud Bronx cheers from his opponents But they won’t be dispositive. The election will  clearly and undisputably mark more of the same or a change.

It’s all about November 6.

What concerns me is that I have no confidence that the Democrats will win either house this year (I’m not confident of Republican victories either.) Among Democrats I see a good deal of disunity, the staking out of “left” or “center” positions, and no leadership. I satisfy myself that in the House local issues and local candidates can take the day. If these  issues  and candidates capture the imagination of the electorate, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did in Queens, New York, the House should go Democrat.

I think what 2018 candidates say about what is occupying the cablenets will not matter very much when compared to the local factory’s problems; the schools; heath care; the dismal state of the political scene and a candidate’s absence from it or presence in it;  and the life story, experience, novelty, freshness, commitment and enthusiasm of those running. And incumbency is no great advantage in 2018.

November 6 will be real.